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What We’re Reading
Emma Komlos-Hrobsky (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Magazine): Everyone told me how seismically great Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia was; everyone was right. Spiotta does the most deft work in evoking the vagaries of a completely original set of family relationships. I’ve never quite met any of these characters before, and I feel like I know them perfectly. I cannot believe it took me this long to read this book, and I cannot justify doing anything else until I’ve finished it. (What the heck am I doing writing this? I have to find out what happens to Nik.)
This hardly does it justice, but like I said, I have to go read!
Masie Cochran (Associate Editor, Tin House Books): I just started Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree and I can’t believe I am just now getting to it. I was born in Knoxville, TN, the setting of Suttree. While McCarthy’s world—early on there’s already drownings, and brawls, and (off-page) sex with watermelons—doesn’t feel like a recognizable homecoming, the prose puts me at ease. It’s wonderfully dark and terrifically funny and I’ll follow wherever it goes.
Devon Walker (Open Bar Intern): Everyone, it seems, has a copy of Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove in hand, and I’m ashamed to say, as of last week, I had only ever read one of her stories, Reeling for the Empire, which appeared in our Winter Reading issue. That one story, however, was more than enough to catch my attention and make me want to read more: I both fell in love with and was unnerved by the narrator’s voice, with its artful intertwining of cunning escapism with the innocent longing for home. Equally compelling and unsettling in this story is the transformation that begins with a sip of tea and works its way through the fingertips, transmogrifying female bodies into lepidopteron and literally self-contained silk factories.
After reading and falling for Reeling for the Empire, I picked up a copy of Russell’s first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, at my local bookstore. It has most certainly not disappointed. Once again, I have been immediately beguiled by the originality of Russell’s prose; the strange shifty nature of her characters, all of whom are as bizarre as they are believable; and the elegant and sometimes circuitous progression of events that spiral out of themselves in supernatural bursts of sound and imagery. Each story asks the reader to suspend his or her disbelief in a new way, and I imagine most readers, if they are anything like me, are nodding in agreement, saying yes, yes, I’ll believe anything so long as you keep telling this story to which I am utterly addicted.
Matthew Dickman (Poetry Editor): Dan Chelotti’s debut book of poems X (McSweeney’s Poetry Series, 2013) is like a direct line to our inner-lives! An inner life of someone who lives on earth but was, perhaps, born on the moon. There are streets and donkeys here but also dark matter and starlight.
Heather Hartley (Paris Editor of Tin House): I just picked up an old copy of James Joyce’s Chamber Music, a book of thirty-six poems published in 1907. “When I wrote Chamber Music,” Joyce wrote to his wife in 1909, “I was a lonely boy, walking about by myself at night and thinking that one day a girl would love me.” Maybe a girl or three loved him back in the day for verses like, “What counsel has the hooded moon / Put in thy heart, my shyly sweet,” [XII] and beyond the women, this first book publication received a fair amount of critical acclaim from the likes of Yeats and Pound. And it doesn’t stop there: musicians ranging from Peter Buck (REM/Minus 5) to Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth/Text of Light) paid homage to Joyce on a double CD released by Fire Records in 2008 eponymously called, “Chamber Music: James Joyce.” Thirty-six poems interpreted by thirty-six different musicians–Joyce in so many different voices. Both the book and the CD are delightful and refreshing, just in time for spring.